A Galactic Quest (And An Inaugural Podcast!)

Last night I got the chance to interview a great friend of mine, Ashton Adams, by phone. The occasion? The release of Galaxy Man #4, written by none other than Ashton himself. It was a great chat, and produced a great blog post, but I also used the opportunity to try a little something different: I recorded the entire conversation and have turned it into the inaugural Jason Muses Podcast.

Of course, it may end up being the only Jason Muses Podcast, but that’s another matter entirely.

Here is the podcast in its entirety, and beneath that you’ll find the blog that I wrote based off this conversation. Let me know what you think about both!

Jason Muses Podcast – Ashton Adams

A Galactic Quest Fulfilled

I grew up reading comic books. Batman, Spider-Man and X-Men primarily, though every once in a while I could be talked into another title if the art were cool enough. I had friends who collected some of the more esoteric stuff, and some that collected nothing but the kind that were pretty much commercials for crappy toys. Regardless of type, there was something magical about getting lost in those illustrated pages for a couple of hours that became an essential part of my childhood.

And so it was that I met Ashton Adams.

I’m leaving out a lot of the story because there’s just not enough time, but long story short, I met Ashton during high school and we became fast friends because we both loved comic books. Well, that’s not quite true; I loved comic books. Ashton loved comic books. Loved the stories. Loved the characters. Loved the art. Loved the genre for the genre. It was that passion that gave us a lot to talk about.

Would Superman beat up Batman? What would happen if Wolverine ended up with Jean Grey? How often did superheroes need pee breaks?

We spent hours reading comics, talking comics, and, eventually, creating comics. And it was those creative endeavors that first led us to Galactic Quest Comics. Galactic Quest was a store owned by Kyle Puttkammer, a fella who didn’t seem too much older than Ashton and myself, and who loved comics on a level that surpassed anything we’d ever seen. Kyle was so into comics that he even sold the official comic Bristol pages – the kind with blue lining that the pros used when drawing our favorite books.

Naturally, Galactic Quest became our go-to comic store.

Then life happened. We roomed together freshman year at the University of Georgia, but our lives during college went in different directions. So did our lives after college. You know how it goes: things change. You meet people, you get married, you start your career, and many of the the things that used to define you fall away and get replaced by other things.

Except for Kyle and Ashton. There was still a love for comics through it all. In fact, as Ashton said in a phone interview last night from his home in Suwanee, “Some people might say, ‘Oh, you’re immature,’ and some people might say, ‘Well, I’m young at heart,’ as I like to put it. But I have stories to tell.”

One of those stories can be found in Galaxy Man #4. Now, if you don’t know Galaxy Man, that’s okay; it’s the brainchild of Kyle, who noticed that the comics in his store weren’t necessarily for kids anymore. A father himself, Kyle wanted younger kids to have a comic all their own, one that was written with them in mind. So Kyle and a local artist named Allen Belk went to work.

The concept was the stuff of comic tradition: a family who loses their astronaut mother while she’s on a mission to Mars; a father, Stanley Quest given super powers when a meteorite crashes near his observatory; a helpful sidekick named Cosmic Girl who hides a secret identity. This rich platform became the beginning of Galaxy Man. After the first three issues, the writer Kyle was using stepped away from the project.

Enter Ashton.

Having been a customer of Kyle’s for years, and having developed a rapport with one another (even going so far to develop other comic projects still in the works), Ashton volunteered to step into the void. Kyle was hesitant.

“Well, Kyle said, ‘Listen, I’ve read what you wrote for this other project and I like it a lot, but this is a completely different field.’ But, if you can write a scene or two of Galaxy Man and show me what you can do with the character, then we’ll talk about you writing it.’ And I went home and wrote an entire comic book script.”

That initial script wasn’t used for the issue, but it more than showed Kyle that Ashton was capable of handling the book. He hired Ashton on the spot to write Galaxy Man #4, and after months of hard work, the book is now available in print and in digital form (via Comics Plus on the iPad). And perhaps most exciting, Galaxy Man was recently added by Diamond Distributors, the official clearinghouse for all things comics.

Now, anyone can walk into their local comic shop, ask for the owner to order Galaxy Man, and the owner can look in the Diamond catalog and find it. It’s as legitimate as anything from Marvel or DC, and it’s a huge step for an independently produced book. In fact, Kyle recently went to Chicago to speak about independent publishing in the comic book world and both he and Galaxy Man were well received.

Two weeks ago, Kyle hosted a signing party for Galaxy Man at his Lawrenceville store, and fans of the book turned out by the carload. Ashton said it was nice to feel like a rock star for a couple of hours. “You had these kids asking you to sign their books for them, and they were so excited. It was a great moment for me.”

It was also reconnecting with his childhood in a way. “This is just the natural way for me to tell my stories,” he said. “I was not ready in my teens or in my early twenties to be a writer, and certainly didn’t have the experience to write for kids. I’m an expecting father, but I’m not a father yet, but I do have nieces and nephews, and it was my experience with them that allowed me to tap back into my own childhood and write about what would be appropriate in entertaining the kids.”

But now comes the hard part: getting the word out. While sales at both of the Galactic Quest locations (Lawrenceville and Buford) have been good, the hope is for other local stores to begin carrying the book. With so much emphasis lately on keeping things local, it only makes sense to share our stories too, and this is a story that is completely family friendly: the goal of Galaxy Man has always been to produce a comic that a parent could either give their child to read or, even better, read with them.

Ashton feels like they’ve accomplished that. “One of our models is Pixar: where they really tell great stories that kids love but adults can enjoy too. Uncles, parents, aunts, grandparents – they can enjoy it with the kids in their lives.”

So how can you help? Buy the book. Head to your local comic shop and ask for it by name. Download the digital edition. Read it with your kids. Share a little of the magic from your childhood.

And when you do, you’ll share a lot of magic with some local talent hoping to make the comic book shop safe again for kids of all ages.

Insomniac’s Internet Report

Welcome back, Dave. Hal has upgraded to wifi and is waiting to show you some new tricks...

I couldn’t sleep last night, a fact you might have guessed given the blog’s suddenly new appearance (Side Note: can I help it if WordPress finally produced a free theme almost exactly like I’ve been wanting? I saw this last night and got giddy). To pass the time, and to prevent my insomnia from infecting my beloved wife, I opted to hit the couch with the old laptop and see what the internet has to offer once the midnight oil is lit.

The quick summation: Jack Squat.

In a world of supposedly 24-hour information, I just so happened to pick the world’s most boring 24-hours in which to be wide awake. Baseball is on a break until the All-Star sham starts, the NFL and NBA are both locked out and moving at pace that makes glaciers seem impatient, and Facebook offers no one with whom to banter once the clock strikes one in the morning. CNN’s lead story was about Prince William and Duchess Kate wearing cowboy gear to commemorate their historic opening of the Calgary Stampeded (Brits in boots and bolos – there’s some stunning reading!), and the folks at Fox weren’t much better (I think it was all about nine ways to bring Casey Anthony to justice, “Old West” style).

Even TMZ was DOA, and I couldn’t even bring myself to Google the words “Perez Hilton”, just out of fear that my computer would catch a digital STD. I tried reading some online books, but without the tactile sensation of a page to turn, Wuthering Heights is even more dreadful than previously imagined. I tried to keep up with Twitter, but even their feed was pathetically slow – two tweets in twenty minutes…it’s like all of the smart alecks in the world fell into a coma at the exact same time.

Hulu was hopeless (I just can’t bring myself to watch anything other than Law & Order from NBC) and YouTube gets boring after the 254,302 video of some poor father being “accidentally” hit in the groin. I tried reading some of the classier content aggregators but all I got was aggravation.

So in the end I turned on a small lamp, grabbed a Raymond Chandler story collection, and read some tales about my favorite fictional detective of all time, Philip Marlowe. My brain slowed down, I got to read some great writing, and eventually I was able to close my eyes and drift off to sleep…for ten minutes. I woke up to the sounds of my wife making coffee and my daughter flitting around the house, upset because daddy was taking up the whole couch and she wanted her seat.

Now, I’m too tired to really post anything insightful or truly hilarious, my head kind of hurts, and I have the vague sensation of needing to keel over at any moment. I can already hear my bed calling my name.

Unless aliens land or Casey Anthony suddenly elopes with OJ, I doubt there’ll be anything happening online tonight that I’ll really want to be part of. And even if aliens land, that can wait til morning.

OJ and Casey…well, who cares?

Back In The Saddle (An Appeal to Youth Ministers Everywhere)

So in 2005 I quit my job as a youth minister in order to take time off and grieve the death of my first child. It was needed, and it was healing. Life since then has been a rather circuitous route, taking me places I’ve never dreamed (see this previous post for some detail).

But, I find myself back in the saddle again as a youth minister. I’m pumped. I’m excited. I feel like I come back to the position (with the church I left in 2005, no less, so it’s literally the same position) with fresher ideas, a better leadership style, a truer faith, and more wisdom.

I just don’t know what to do with my kids for fun.

I mean, I do – I know the old stand-bys, the tried-and-true staples that every YM has in his bag – but I’m curious to know what other guys are doing. How are you innovating the fun quotient of your ministry? What are things that you’ve taken your students to do that caught you by surprise when the kids loved it?

I want to hear from the creatives among us, and especially those who’ve been with a particular ministry for over five years. Shoot, those who have been with one ministry for over ten years would be ideal.

So how ’bout it? What are some fresh, fun things you do with your students? Where do you find your ideas?

They Just Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To…

…and that’s a cryin’ shame. I just watched “12 Angry Men” for the sixth or seventh time in the past two months, and I still come away with a sense of just how freaking good that movie really is.

It truly stands the test of time.

There are some parts that are dated – a reflection of the changing social mores of an increasingly evolving America – but on the whole the tensions, the prejudices, the capacity for quiet strength expressed with dignity to change hardened or cynical hearts still holds true in our contemporary society.

We just don’t always see it. Or hear about it.

Or, honestly, appreciate it.

We’ve turned the person with moral conviction into a satirical lump that deserves our best shots, and I’m not talking about atheism vs. Christianity; I’m talking about people holding to an honest-to-God ethical conviction despite the prevailing pressures or blatant self-interest of themselves or others being turned into the target for our aggregated contempt.

Old-fashioned. Patristic. Parochial. Anachronistic. Whatever you want to call it, you dismiss it at your peril. We desperately need women and men who hold to a serious ethical code, men and women who won’t sell out their fellow man at the first opportunity to cut a corner or make a buck. And if you don’t believe that statement, well try and enjoy a fishing expedition in the Gulf region right now, or have a chat with someone who’s nest egg got scrambled by the fellows who cheated and lied their way to multi-million dollar retirements and golden parachutes.

Honor. Morality. Ethics. Class.

Foreign words to my generation and the ones behind us, but words we need to resurrect if we hope for any bright future for our nation. If we fail in this, we might as well carve out the tombstone for the American dream:

“Rest in Pieces.”